Major growth at award-winning South Wales-based insurance brokerage and risk management company Arthur J. Gallagher over the past five years has been underpinned by an apprenticeship programme.
Seventy-five employees have completed apprenticeships during the period and another 37 are currently working towards qualifications ranging from foundation to higher apprenticeships and a Diploma in Insurance. The company is proud of its 91% achievement rate and more than two-thirds of its workforce is either qualified or working towards qualification.
Revenue has grown from £3.56 million in 2012 to £10.4m and staffing has more than doubled, increasing from 68 to 155 in the same period in Llantrisant, Cardiff, Newport and Talbot Green, with another 10 new jobs expected to be created this year. The company was rewarded for its commitment to apprentices by being named Medium Employer of the Year at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru last October.
Arthur J. Gallagher began its apprenticeship programme after identifying a skills gap in the market. It realised that many jobseekers who may possess excellent customer service skills did not necessarily have the insurance skills required for their new customer contact strategy.
The company works with Newport-based learning provider Acorn Learning Solutions Ltd to address the skills gap. Apprenticeships are delivered to new and existing staff, offering a range of opportunities that fit within the company’s business model.
“Apprenticeships help to develop a better skilled workforce,” said Paul Norman, Arthur J. Gallagher’s regional manager for Wales. “Staff feel more valued if they are afforded the time to train and develop their skills. We show them a clear progression path, linked to qualifications and encourage them to strive for any role in the company that they want to aspire to achieve.
“We have market information that proves a qualified salesperson achieves better renewal retention and customer satisfaction scores than one that is not qualified. This averages at around +5% which filters through to our turnover and bottom line profit. If we recruited an experienced insurance account manager, the salary cost would be anything from £5k to £10k higher, but more importantly, this experience does not necessarily filter down to our expectations of customer service.
“I would recommend apprenticeships because they enable the business to recruit people that are passionate about customer service. You can teach them the technical skills and mould them into stars of the future. Apprenticeships also drive loyalty. Educating and training an individual into a professional person creates this.
“The business growth that we have achieved would have been more difficult for us without the apprenticeship programme. If we had to recruit experienced insurance personnel, not only would it have been more expensive, but it would have been more difficult to find these people locally. Our organic growth and business strategy may have had to be delayed without the support of the apprenticeship programme.”
The success of the company’s apprenticeship programme in Wales has persuaded Arthur J. Gallagher to consider replicating work-based learning across its 80 UK offices, which employ 4,900 staff.
The Welsh Government has pledged to deliver a minimum of 100,000 quality apprenticeships during its term of office, which are available to people of all ages. The apprenticeships specifically focus on the needs of industry, particularly science, technology, engineering and mathematics, sectors where there are skills shortages.
Investment is also being increased to drive growth in key sectors including creative industries, information and communication technology, construction, logistics and financial and environmental services. Welsh language and bilingual apprenticeships, which provide opportunities for learning to maintain and develop their skills, are supported.
Apprentices earn while they learn, gaining invaluable, hands-on experience in the workplace. Apprenticeships generate around £1.1 billion to the Welsh economy and convert every £1 of public investment into a return of £74 compared to £57 for an average degree.
Apprenticeship completion rates in Wales are consistently above 80 per cent compared to 67 per cent in England. The average apprenticeship framework costs between £4,000 and £16,000 compared to a minimum of £27,000 for an undergraduate degree.
From April 8 this year, UK employers with a pay bill exceeding £3 million now pay an Apprenticeship Levy to support the training of apprentices
The Apprenticeship Programme is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.
To find out how your business can benefit from taking on an apprentice or upskilling your current workforce, register your interest here